From: Sunny girls by Sandra Moussempès, translated by Eléna Rivera (Released by above/ground in 2017)
Review by Greg Bem (@gregbem)
Causal peripheries: R3hab, Phil Ochs, Flying Lotus, Young Marco, Burial (1, 2, 3)
In above/ground’s published translated selection of Sandra Moussempès’s Sunny girls, we have 12 pages of poetry collected into a shared reflection of sensation. Here there is the sensation of the emerged emotion; the incoming flux, epiphanic, startling, arousing. It is the sensation of possibility, where Moussempès establishes, unleashes, and releases context. Beneath the banner of the image of the line cast into water, this is poetry that is the line, the throw, and the water altogether. It is beautiful language of the unknown, of the potential, of the radical.
Undeniably a small pamphlet of verse, From: Sunny girls is the type of book that explores the possibility of itself. Thanks in part to the incredibly skilled work of translator Eléna Rivera, as well as, of course, the included original French writ of Moussempès, what is a small pamphlet is also a sequence of induced cravings to read the full work, the original French, abound, are harmonious, encourage salivation, a seeking of salvation through new words. The voice of the speaker within the text evokes a full poetic range: there is the breath, and it is short, and then it is long. This is performance and engagement, with profoundly subtle hints of feminism and naturalism, in unison: “Poetesses who bet on the banal don’t ride mopeds despite appearances”.
Lines move in staggers, and then splice across the page like lightning. The lines are fully human, fully realized, full actuated; and yet they are at odds with each other, for the sake of being at odds before the reader. With equal parts maelstrom and finesse burst spirited instances of balance-cum-counter, crushing the impasse of maladroit forms and “banal” formulaic intentions.
Yet there is surprise. There is unknown and it is consistently furthered. Flip a page and Moussempès shows the extended reflex of repetition, and bulk, crushing blocks of prose, where punctuation has been subsided for rhythm, where speed is harnessed and funneled into the extraordinary. Whereas the space of the before was chiseled, here there converges elegance and literary force into spectral vibrancy, cloud-like, expanding and contracting at once: a new image of the breath for the reader. Like a Gertrude Stein or, fifty years later, the ongoing abrasions of the language poets, there is a thickness to the life in poems like “Momentary Resurgence of Visual Sensations,” which contains lines like: “I smile but without thinking reflect on the fact that thought speaks for itself speaks the sound of my lips doesn’t exist if it isn’t in the sonic fiction”. And this thickness is uplifting, ravishing, peculiar and inducing of life.
The cinematographic qualities of Moussempès should not be ignored, especially in this selection. The quasi-described elements of the human body, its parts arranged in and out of focus, are captured and referenced but not relied upon. The performance of balancing back and forth between movement and eruptive mental declarations is balanced with maturity, elevated arrangements, and a very concentrated fulcrum of expression. To be “sunny” is to be impacted by the sun, by the light, in all its weight and substance. The world Moussempès has crafted for her speaker is one where the realms of possibility of humanity are explored; and yet also, more precisely, the realms of possibility of the poet too: “I ask myself and my answer is a question that becomes a remake of my supposed previous life”. The cyclical underpinnings are a gift of challenge and revelation at once.